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Nonprofit buys former restaurant for new Wimauma Opportunity Center

A former restaurant, tucked away behind trees near Walmart at State Road 674 and U.S. Highway 301, is poised to become a hub for entrepreneurs in the growing Wimauma community of Hillsborough County’s South Shore.

Enterprising Latinas Inc., a nonprofit working to empower low-income Hispanic women in Tampa Bay, acquired the building and 2.25 acres of land from Roy and Rachel Loken for $735,000, says Liz Gutierrez, ELI Founder and CEO.

The property, formerly a breakfast-and-lunch restaurant called Rachel’s Country Kitchen, will be the site of ELI’s Wimauma Opportunity Center, a place where the community can meet and train for new jobs or entrepreneurial endeavors.

The purchase was made possible by a $250,000 grant from Alleghany Franciscan Ministries, which is investing in the community through its Common Good Initiative. Alleghany is providing another $250,000 to help create an economic development infrastructure, advance economic development and provide training.

ELI also secured a $520,000 loan from the nonprofit Raza Development Fund, the largest Latino Community Development Financial Institution, Gutierrez says.

The project will involve renovating the building’s interior for community learning and shared office use, and adding outdoor signage and lighting. Later on, a complete redesign of the front is anticipated.

“It’s really going to be a hub for all things related to community economic opportunity," explains Gutierrez. “We’re very excited to have a physical place where we can bring people together to expand the work that we already started.”

ELI, which has been leasing at Beth-El Farmworker Ministry on U.S. 301, will also be housed at the facility. It began moving in last week after the Jan. 8 sale.

“All of the customers are coming in looking for Rachel,” Gutierrez says. “They lost their little place. Hopefully we will convert it into a new place they can come back to.”

Located at 5128 State Road 674, the Wimauma Opportunity Center is expected to draw students to the commercial kitchen for culinary training -- including food service management -- starting in February.

“That’s an industry that’s booming all around us,” Gutierrez explains. “When it’s not being used for training, other people can use it be able to get licensed to sell tacos or sandwiches though food trucks. ... Hopefully, it will also be a catalyst of the food micro entrepreneurs that are here in Wimauma and also the surrounding area.”

As development in Hillsborough pushes south, the community with an average income of less than $26,000 a year between 2011-15 is transitioning from farmlands into new subdivisions that look much like homes in neighboring Sun City Center. With help from the Alleghany Franciscan Ministries’ Common Good Initiative, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and other concerned citizens, Wimauma residents have been working to direct their own path.

The decision to purchase a facility was made because ELI couldn’t find available rental space, Gutierrez says.

ELI, which has been training childcare workers, expects to again offer that training in February. It is in the process of developing an area transportation system in cooperation with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.

“We’re having conversations with a number of different funders that have expressed general commitment to provide startup capital,” she says.

ELI has hired Chamain Moss-Torres, Ph.D., formerly program director at the Children’s Home Network, as its director of economic opportunity initiatives. It also is leasing space to the Wimauma CDC, which is interviewing for an executive director to further the CDC’s mission and manage its staff and programs. The executive director also will serve as its primary fundraiser and spokesperson. Applicants for the position, expected to pay between $75,000-$90,000 annually with benefits, should submit cover letters and resumes to Connectivity Community Consulting at info@connectformore.com.

Adds Gutierrez: “We’re going to be very busy. Our goal over the next year is to touch 100 women and their families,” she says.

Learn more about how the Wimauma community is transitioning for growth though Alleghany Franciscan Ministries-funded On the Ground coverage in 83 Degrees.


11 people, projects in Downtown Tampa recognized for urban excellence

What is the value of a new dog park to the surrounding neighborhood? 

For residents on the northern half of the Channel District in downtown Tampa, it’s immense, if only measured based on dogs-per-acre.

The Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park is built underneath the Selmon Expressway, directly across from Bell Channelside and within walking distance of Grand Central and Ventana. It’s excellent thanks to a thoughtful design and dual use of space (dogs below, cars above), and the acknowledgement of a public hero: 

Hillsborough County Deputy John Robert Kotfila, Jr. lost his life to a wrong-way driver on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in March of last year. The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority wanted to do something to honor his legacy. After learning about the strong bond between Kotfila and his German Shepard, Dexter, it was decided to  dedicate the Selmon Greenway dog park in his honor.

“The neighborhood loves it and is grateful to have a shaded space to use year-round, as well as separate space for small dogs,'' says Sarah McKinley, a downtown resident and worker. "They [the dogs] all seem very pleased.”

And as any dog owner knows, dog parks have a way of becoming the main gathering spot for the neighborhood. If anything will force you away from solitary Netflix binging, it’s to take Rufus for a walk.

The Downtown Partnership also recognized other projects for improving the quality of life in Tampa. Winners include The Downtowner free shuttle service (transportation), The Art of the Brick (private sector project), Second Screen Cult Cinema (arts and culture), and the I AM PRICELESS mural (social impact).

The full list of winners is available on the Tampa Downtown Partnership's website. Look for winners in categories like historic preservation, experience, collaboration, and people’s choice.

Taken in aggregate, these actors and their impacts build upon the momentum that continues to push Tampa’s urban center in more dynamic directions each year.

A special acknowledgement was also made to Christine Burdick, Tampa Downtown Partnership’s CEO for the past 15 years. She led the Partnership through what many consider Downtown Tampa’s most transformative change in modern times, but will soon retire from her work with the organization.

Burdick is credited as the driver of many successful initiatives, such as programming activities in Curtis Hixon Park, completion and management of The Tampa Riverwalk, relocation of the Tampa Museum of Art, and initiating the Coast Bike Share program.

U.S. 301 widening project begins; FDOT holds open house

Work has begun on a $49 million project to widen a 3.8-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 301 between State Road 674 and Balm Road in Hillsborough County’s South Shore.

The road will be widened to six lanes, with a raised median and paved shoulders, and a new bridge built over Big Bullfrog Creek. A sidewalk will be added on the west side and a multi-use path will be added on the east.

“The really great news for this project is road closures are not anticipated during construction – we will be working east of the existing road, building the new northbound roadway (Phase 1), then shifting traffic to it and building the southbound roadway (Phase 2),” says David Botello, Public Information Officer for the Florida Department of Transportation’s District 7. “Traffic disruptions (if any) will be minimal and at night.”

Phase 3 will involve applying the last layer of asphalt and thermoplastic striping. The project includes a new drainage system that relies upon ponds.

This widening project in south Hillsborough County will help ease congestion and accommodate the growth along the U.S. 301 corridor, as well as enhance bicycle and pedestrian safety,” Botello says.

Lower land costs have made southern Hillsborough more attractive to developers. Plans for housing developments in the U.S. 301 corridor date back to at least the 1970s and 1980s, when landowners agreed to pay for roadway improvements.

The Davie-based contractor, Astaldi Construction Corp., is expected to complete the job in late 2020.

An Open House is scheduled Tuesday, Nov. 14, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the SouthShore Regional Library, 15816 Beth Shields Way, Ruskin.

“FDOT staff will be on hand to answer any project-related questions, and project design display boards and construction plans will also be available for viewing,”
Botello adds. “We anticipate the residents of the nearby communities as well as commuters who utilize the U.S 301 corridor to be most interested in this project.”

Special accommodations are available through the Americans with Disabilities Act. Those who require assistance, or who need free translation services, should email Maricelle Venegas, Community Outreach Specialist, or call (813) 975-6204, before the event.

Information also is available from FDOT online.


Florida CDC gives local nonprofits a chance to make funding pitches

The CDC of Tampa will make a pitch for funding for an economic opportunity center to provide services to at-risk individuals. The University Area CDC will attempt to garner support for a fee-based visual and performing arts/interactive learning/social engagement project for underserved youth and families. And the nonprofit Enterprising Latinas will seek money for an innovative transportation system to serve the Wimauma community in Hillsborough County’s SouthShore.

These are among the 11 creative nonprofit organizations that will seek help from potential investors Oct. 30 through Nov. 1 in an event patterned after the popular TV show Shark Tank.

“The whole concept behind this Expo was to put nonprofit projects in front of people that might be interested in funding them,” says Terry Chelikowsky, Executive Director of the Florida Alliance of Community Development Corporations, a Jacksonville group working to help communities in Florida prosper.

“We’ve tried to invite people that might really be interested in learning about these projects,” she adds, “but there are no guarantees.”

The Expo is expected to attract a diverse group from around the state that includes representatives from financial institutions, local businesses, community development finance institutions, and community and family foundations -- as well as social venture capitalists, local government officials, and the general public.

In addition to pitches by creators, the Expo will include a training track to educate people about communities and economic development by nonprofits. Training will include information on why communities are inequitable and how to make them more equitable, the economic benefits of the nonprofit sector, and community development and the arts.

The event has been in the works for three years after the idea was sparked by a similar event held in Jacksonville. “We are hoping to be able to repeat this every couple of years,” she says.

Creator presentations kick off at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 31. While 10-minute pitches will be made to a room full of people, they’ll be graded on a 50-point system by two or three volunteers. A question-and-answer session will include comments from professionals on the viability of the projects.

First place winners will be recognized in each of three categories: economic development, housing development, and programs that empower people. The real prize is receiving a followup call from one or more investors – and ultimately, funding for their projects.

The Expo will be held at Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay at 2900 Bayport Dr., Tampa. It costs $199 for the first alliance member and $149 for additional members. Non-members pay $269, with additional individuals from an organization paying $219.

Online registration is available through the organization’s website by clicking on 2017 Expo Hub. Walk-ins are welcome. The event starts at noon on October 30 and includes lunch, a general session on equitable communities, a creators’ exhibit display and reception. The event concludes with Best Project Awards at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 1.


Architectural design center opens in Ybor City

The historic San Souchi building in Ybor City, a two-story yellow brick building dating back to 1906, is now home to Center for Architecture and Design, a place where architectural organizations and the community can collaborate.

The center houses the American Institute of Architects Tampa Bay and its related organization, the Tampa Bay Foundation for Architecture and Design. It already is hosting exhibits on the fourth Friday of the month.

AIA Tampa Bay has scheduled a ribbon cutting, which is open to the public, at 10 a.m. September 7 at 1315 E. 7th Ave., Ste. 105, on the building’s first floor.

The offices, formerly located at 200 N. Tampa Street, Suite 100, are now larger and more visible. “We see a lot of foot traffic on the sidewalk,” says Philip Trezza Jr., Past President of AIA Tampa Bay. “We wanted to have that physical presence and visibility in downtown Tampa and Ybor.”

The facility will be used for meetings, art galleries and architectural displays, presentations, and continuing education for its members. An event calendar is available on the association’s website.

The gallery will showcase traveling exhibits, student projects, local artists and design contest winners.

The center also will be available to rent for meetings and special events.

“We may have an option in the future to buy it [the center space]. Right now we’re leaving our options open,” Trezza says.

A $50,000 upgrade to the property, located in the Ybor City Historic District, a U.S. National Historic Landmark District near downtown Tampa, has been underway after they moved in last year.

Improvements include pine flooring made with salvaged pine from rivers and drop-in ceilings, new cabinets and kitchen, a new air conditioning system, a new electrical system, energy-efficient lighting, and countertops with poured concrete in the kitchen area. Glass panels from University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s College of Business were recycled for a table.

A retail shop, planned next year at the front of the offices, will sell art and architecturally related items.

The 2,000-square-foot center’s design was donated by
the St. Petersburg-based Harvard Jolly Architecture, where Trezza is Senior VP and a Principal.

The San Souci building won a Community Design Award given by the Hillsborough's City-County Planning Commission in 2010. The 22,000-square-foot building, which served as a retail anchor on the west end of 7th Avenue, has housed a penny arcade, barber shop, telegraph office, the San Souci theater, a Maas Brothers department store and Babcock furniture store.

AIA Tampa Bay is the regional chapter of the American Institute of Architects. It is the professional association of some 625 architects and architecture-related workers in a seven-county area including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Hernando, Citrus, Sumter and Pasco counties.

The nonprofit TBFAD offers education on design to the public, and seeks to inspire the exploration and appreciation of architecture. It now will spearhead Tampa Bay Design Week, a public festival AIA Tampa Bay started in 2014.


Better cafe, new rooftop experiences coming to Clearwater Main Library

A feasibility study is underway to determine the future of Clearwater Main Library’s first-floor café and rooftop terrace.

Library Director Jennifer Obermaier says the upgrades will be part of Phase I of Imagine Clearwater, a $55 million revitalization project the city hopes will reactivate its downtown waterfront and bluff, and spur economic development. The Clearwater City Council approved the study, which will cost just under $100,000, at its July 31 meeting.

The Main Library, the largest of the city’s five branches at 90,000 square feet, was built 15 years ago. “Back then, libraries were very different. They were very traditional,” Obermaier says. “The trend is, right now, and that’s the national trend, is to make things more interactive and move things around.”

For a little over a year, the library has focused on its four-floor Maker Studios. A different studio is featured on each floor -- Creation Studio for Arts & Design, Discovery Studio of Creative Learning, Innovation Studio of Technology & Business, and Heritage Studio of Community Memory. The purpose of the maker spaces is to provide library patrons with opportunities for hands-on learning and the use of advanced technology, including 3-D printers, green screens and video cameras, sewing machines, a laser engraver, scanners and more. The fourth-floor Heritage Studio is still under construction.

Now the café and rooftop terrace are the next areas “ready to be reactivated,” Obermaier says. Last November, city residents passed a referendum to permit modifications to the library. “Everything on the bluff or certain parts of the bluff has to go to referendum,” she adds. “Now we have the opportunity to rethink different areas of the library that aren’t well established.”

When the library was initially built, the rooftop served as a special events space for not only library events, but wedding receptions, banquets, fundraisers for various organizations and outside groups. There was even an event coordinator position designed for booking and managing that rooftop space. “But during the recession, that was one of the positions that was eliminated,” Obermaier says.

Since then, the rooftop terrace has been locked off from the public and only occasionally used for library programming, from Sunset on the Roof to various astronomy events.

“We’re using the space, but we’d like to use it in different ways and more often,” she says.

As for the café space downstairs, there are difficulties surrounding “restraints because they can only open when [the library is] open and there’s no external entrance,” Obermaier says.

She adds, “We had four vendors open in that space and they just couldn’t make a profit.”

For the past five years, the space has been utilized through a partnership with Pinellas County Schools. The school district uses the café as part of its on-the-job-training program for special needs students. “They’re very successful and they’re here during the school day as part of their school work,” she says.

Clearwater Library staff is working with architects Williamson Dacar Associates, Inc. on the study, which should be completed by December. 

The city council will ultimately decide on which option is best for these spaces, once the study is completed and the library presents possibilities to them.

“We’re hoping the architects will look at these spaces and say here’s one possibility, or another, or they’ll just suggest modifying a space for more programmatic activities or a lounging area to sit and read,” Obermaier says. “There are so many possibilities. I’m excited to see what they propose.”

Enterprising Latinas to graduate first class of childcare workers

Little Angels Wimauma, an early learning family childcare home that will accommodate 10 children in a South Shore community with few childcare options, is expected to open its doors August 30.

The home is the first of at least seven new childcare facilities in the area “that will create a critical mass of opportunity for children in the community to access quality early childhood education in the community where they live,” says Liz Gutierrez, Founder and CEO of Enterprising Latinas, a nonprofit organization working to empower low-income Hispanic woman in the Tampa Bay Area.

“We’re going to change the landscape of the community. We’re going to create opportunities for women,” she asserts. “We’re going to address a major challenge in the community, which is the lack of school readiness among children.”

Little Angels Wimauma’s owner, Jackie Brown, was part of a childcare class offered by Enterprising Latinas, which through its Opportunity Center is working to help the community by activating women. Brown’s staff will include a couple of part-time substitutes from her training class.

“I am doing my part as best I can to help families to realize dreams and goals,” says Brown, a Wimauma CDC member who grew up in the community. “It means everything to me because I live here. I work here. I’m advocating on the part of Wimauma every day.”

A ribbon cutting ceremony, which is open to the public, is slated for 4 p.m. on August 29th, at 5803 North St., Wimauma. It is followed by a 5 p.m. graduation and reception for the class of 30 that completed the Wimauma Cares training program. The graduation and reception will be at the Opportunity Center at 18240 U.S. Highway 301 S., Wimauma. Space is limited, so interested parties are asked to RSVP by emailing Sara Arias or calling 813-699-5811.

The celebration culminates a year-long endeavor enabled by financial support from Allegany Franciscan Ministries, the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County and Hillsborough County.

“They took a chance,” she says. “We are very grateful. Without this, we couldn’t have done this.”

While the class may appear to be a simple task to English-speaking individuals, it seemed to be an insurmountable challenge to some of the women who endured. “If English is not your first language, passing this course is no easy feat,” Gutierrez explains.

“They’ve been able to prove to themselves that they could do this,” she says.

Plans already are underway to open more childcare facilities, one of them at Peniel Baptist Church near Wimauma Elementary School. “We are working with them right now, so they can get the work done on the property,” Gutierrez says.

Development in the South Shore area of Hillsborough County is expected to increase the need for community-based childcare.

A waiting list of 70 for the next childcare class in South Shore is a testimony of the popularity of the class. Another 12 are waiting for a Tampa class. “They [the people from Tampa] heard about this and they’re working in lousy jobs and they want the training. They want us to do a Saturday course,” Gutierrez explains. “There’s a lot of interest. We’re going to do it.”


New studio space coming to St. Pete Warehouse Arts District

New studio space is coming to St. Petersburg’s Warehouse Arts District and the community is invited to come take a peek at the progress on Thursday, April 27th.

At a “Hard Hat Celebration” and fundraiser, the St. Pete Warehouse Art District Association will showcase the ArtsxChange, a project that converts 50,000 square feet of space into affordable art studios as part of the association’s commitment to the local art community.

“It’s a chance to get people up to date on the project, which has been in the works for several years, let our sponsors and donors see where their money has gone and to really invite artists into the area to bear witness to our commitment to provide affordable space for them to create,” WADA Executive Director Mary Jane Park says.

The event begins at 4:30 p.m. and includes art by incoming ArtsXchange artists, live music, food and drinks, remarks from St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman and more. The new studios, located at 515 22nd St. S, are currently under construction and attendees will have the opportunity to view progress. A $20 donation to WADA is suggested but the event is free to attend.

WADA has branded the ArtsxChange as a resource for the city, local artists and the community by creating “sustainable and affordable art studios and educational space.” The first phase of development began in March and is expected to conclude in mid-summer. It includes a 1,500-square-foot community space for art exhibitions and educational programing as well as 28 studios.

Smith and Associates CEO Bob Glaser says his business is sponsoring the ArtsxChange because it improves the community and adds opportunity for residents.

“It’s going to bring a lot of positive change to the market place,” he says.

For more information on the event, to register and to view a list of ArtsXchange sponsors visit WADA online.

Developer proposes micro apartments in downtown Tampa

A Tampa-based development firm is looking to bring an innovative type of living space to downtown Tampa.

Urban Core Holdings, LLC is currently under contract to purchase a 12-story downtown office facility with plans to create micro apartments – 300 to 400-square-foot living quarters that are designed to appeal to those who live and work in the area.

Starting at $850 a month and maxing out at $1,100 the apartments, located at 220 E. Madison St., will provide an alternative that is far cheaper than other downtown Tampa complexes, says Omar Garcia of Urban Core Holdings.

Among people under age 35, especially young professionals, Garcia notes there is substantial appeal for this type of living space, which facilitates proximity to high-paying jobs in the downtown area.

“We think there’s a solid six- to seven-thousand people who would be interested in this project,” he says.

One of the proposed complex’s main advantages is the opportunity for younger occupants to be able to acquire wealth in light of the lower rents and reduced living costs.

“It’s a wealth creation idea” Garcia says, noting that the residents would ideally be living near their workplace and would bypass the expense of owning a car as a result.

According to a news release from Urban Core Holdings, a study from AAA Shows that owning a car can cost upwards of $725 per month when all costs are factored.

And the 120 potential residents at 220 Madison will likely be required to not own a car.

Urban Core is currently negotiating with the city of Tampa to avoid a $3 million fee for not adding additional parking once the space is converted from mixed-use to multi-family residential.

Garcia says having to pay the fee would translate to higher rents, which doesn’t fall in line with the goal of the building.

“We’re willing to require our residents not to own a vehicle and therefore there is no parking impact,” he says.

Tampa Bay History Center grows up and out, stays on track with $11M expansion

The Tampa Bay History Center is experiencing smooth sailing so far on an expansion project that will bring the area’s pirate lore to life.

“Knocking on wood, everything is going well,” says C.J. Roberts, History Center President and CEO.

Roberts says construction crews are slightly ahead of schedule on the building expansion that will house the new “Treasure Seekers: Conquistadors, Pirates & Shipwrecks” gallery -- an addition that includes a 60-foot replica of a sailing vessel as its centerpiece and will focus on the stories of Florida’s early explorers.

As construction continues, the Pinellas Park-based Creative Arts is working to design the exhibits and a theatre company out of Boston is writing an “immersive pirate theatre experience” to complement the new gallery, which should be complete before the end of the year.

The expansion is just one part of an $11 million capital campaign, which Roberts says he is hopeful will be completed successfully in another year or so.

The goal of the capital campaign is to raise $5 million for the new gallery and maintenance on the existing structure, $5 million for the center’s endowment -- which funds about 25 percent of operating costs annually -- and $1 million for the new Florida Center for Cartography, a joint effort with the University of South Florida.

“We’ve raised $7.5 million dollars to date,” says Roberts.“We’ve got good wind in our sails, and I am optimistic that we’re going to be successful in completing this campaign.”

The full-size ship included in the gallery aims to provide an immersive experience that will help dispel some myths or misconceptions about pirates while providing a unique chance to learn about navigation, engineering and mathematics.

“These stories of early navigation and maritime exploration really lend themselves very well to pulling out those kinds of educational opportunities,” Roberts says.

Roberts hopes this expansion will broaden the center’s reach by telling stories that go beyond our backyard in the Bay Area.

“This is not a Tampa or Hillsborough story, as many of our other exhibits are,” he says. “This really is a Florida story.”

The Tampa Bay History Center’s expansion project is just one part of a period of exciting growth for the downtown area and Roberts is eager for the next chapter in Tampa’s story.

“We’re excited about the contribution this will make to an already growing downtown,” he says. “I think that we’re in a good place, and the future for both downtown Tampa and the history center looks pretty bright.”

Time to get outdoors to play: Springtime spawns local art festivals

As part of its efforts to revive Station Square Park, the city of Clearwater is holding the first in a series of paint parties/art bazaars at the Cleveland Street Park. Painting in the Park - Art Bazaar at Station Square Park kicks off from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 1, and continues on the first and third Saturdays through June.

“It’s going to be a real active event with lots of art and live music, an open-air painting class,” says Jennie Pearl, the event coordinator, an artist who will teach the $35 painting class. “It’s going to grow. So far we’ve had such a wonderful response.”

The free event sponsored by the city of Clearwater’s Community Redevelopment Agency and Parks and Recreation Department, also features live music by Sal Belloise (known as Guitar Sal), art by Kelly Strong, beer and wine tasting, body/face painting and unique vendors offering items like Hawaiian Island soaps and wearable-art clothing.

A muralist, Pearl still is recruiting for the upcoming events. “I’m looking for comedians, jugglers, hoola hoopers, massage therapists,” says Pearl, who won the 2016 Clearwater’s Downtown Gateway Art Project. “It’s all the arts."

Plans developed after visitors were polled at a grand reopening of the park in February. “They wanted art, they wanted music and entertainment,” says Laura Canary, Community Redevelopment Coordinator. “They also wanted … some type of adult component, some kind of nightlife in the park as well.”

Meanwhile in Tampa, the 6th Annual International Cuban Sandwich Art and Food Festival is underway from noon until 6 p.m. Saturday, April 1, at Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City. Saturday’s agenda? Trying to make the largest Cuban sandwich. The event continues from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, with competitors worldwide competing for awards.

The Safety Harbor Songfest is taking place April 1 and 2 at Safety Harbor Music and Art Center and Waterfront Park, featuring the Wood Brothers, Rising Appalachia, and more. It supports the nonprofit art center’s events; music begins at 11 a.m. both days.

The Tampa Bay Blues Festival is coming to Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg April 7, 8, and 9.  The event kicks off with Dennis Gruenling at 12:30 p.m. Friday, and includes The Rides with Stephen Stills, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Barry Goldberg Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

Organizers of the free, two-day Mainsail Art Festival April 22 and 23, who are expecting to draw some 100,000, also are gearing up for the juried art competition at Vinoy Park. Some $60,000 will be awarded to prize winners at the festival, which began in 1976 when the city’s Bicentennial Committee, the St, Petersburg Recreation Department and St. Petersburg Arts Commission collaborated on a sidewalk arts and colonial crafts festival.

“It wasn’t a juried show. Now it’s one of the top in the country,” says Lisa Wells, who chairs the all-volunteer planning committee. “The prize money’s grown, everything’s grown. ... The quality has gotten better.”

The event, sponsored by the city, Junior League of St. Petersburg, and Tampa Bay Times, was among the top 20 best shows by Wisconsin-based Sunshine Artist magazine in 2016.

The festival, which draws more than 250 exhibiting artists, runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 22 and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 23. The lineup includes Jah Movement Reggae Band at noon April 22,  Souliz at 4:30 p.m. April 22, and singer-songwriter-instrumenalist Damon Fowler at 3:45 p.m. April 23.

The city is seeking volunteers, who can signup online.

Here are some other art-related events planned in the Tampa Bay area during April.

Broad Comedy, a benefit for Planned Parenthood, is slated from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. April 6 at Ybor’s CL Space, 1911 N. 13th St. It features standup comics Robin Savage and Becca Childs, along with writers Lori Shannon and Cathy Salustri.

• Coffee lovers can check out the Tampa Bay Coffee and Art Festival from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. April 8 at The Noise Box, 1310 John Moore Road, Brandon. The festival features craft coffee roasters from Florida and local artists, food trucks and desserts.

• The Latin Music Festival is slated April 8 at 5730 Shore Blvd. S., Gulfport. The concert, on Boca Ciega Bay from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., will include recording artists Orchestra Fuego, The Latin Jazz Knights, Freddy Montez, Victor J. Moreno with Esther Suarez, and Eddie Garrido. It is the first of a series of annual Latin Music Festivals. Admission is $15; children under 10 are free.

• Gulfport’s annual Springfest Garden Art and Faerie Festival is slated from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 14 and 15 at Clymer Park at 5501 27th Ave. S. Renaissance-era characters will roam at the event featuring a Good Friday Fish Fry, May Pole dances, a costume contest, and live music. Admission is free; complimentary parking is offered. More information is available at Springfest's Facebook page or 727-322-5217.

The SunLit Festival kicks off with a party from 7 to 9 p.m. April 6 at the Chihuly Collection in St. Petersburg. The third annual event runs April 10 through 25, bringing together literary organizations and others.

• The Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, in its 36th year, is slated April 21 to April 23 at St. Petersburg Coliseum. The fair is a mecca for book lovers, offering books on just about any topic.


Biotech company Amgen to open Tampa center

The biotechnology company Amgen plans to open a Capability Center in Tampa next October, creating 450 new jobs and investing $25 million by the end of 2018. The Thousand Oaks, CA-based Amgen, a global pioneer in the fight against serious illnesses, will operate its 136,000-square foot center out of four floors at Corporate Center One in Westshore.

“Tampa was selected mainly on the availability of skilled talent there,” says spokeswoman Kristen Davis, as well as for its "proximity to our global sites around the world.”

She notes Tampa’s “high quality” and “affordable” standard of living, plus the company’s potential to grow in the area.

The Capability Center is to deliver “business-enabling services,” including analytics, staff and business support, human resources, and financial assistance, she says.

Amgen will be hiring for a variety of positions in the information systems, human resources and finance fields. Interested persons should visit Amgen’s Career Center online for specific information on open positions, she says.

Tampa was chosen as the site of Amgen’s new state-of-the-art Capability Center after an exhaustive search that included visits to the finalist communities.

One of the world’s leading independent biotechnology companies, Amgen operates in about 100 countries worldwide. It provides medicines for serious diseases where the treatment options are limited, or where it can provide a viable alternative to existing treatment. Committed to unlocking the potential of biology for patients, it works to develop, manufacture and deliver innovative human therapeutics.

Amgen focuses on oncology/hematology, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, bone health, nephrology and neuroscience.

Florida is home to some of the country’s most highly regarded research centers, including more than 1,100 biotech, pharmaceutical and medical device companies and more than 46,000 healthcare establishments.

Amgen joins the life science companies Bristol-Myers Squibb  and Johnson & Johnson in the Tampa area.


A peak inside: Safety Harbor Art & Music Center opens in northern Pinellas County

The Safety Harbor home of artists Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda is hard to miss.

Some know the brightly painted and tiled cottage surrounded by yard sculptures as Whimzeyland. Others affectionately refer to it as “the bowling ball house” because of the rows of decorated bowling balls that adorn the home’s yard. For many, it’s a local landmark, and listed on numerous “roadside attraction” websites.

The couple also used their home to bring the arts to their community in other ways, hosting house concerts and local artists. As this grew, Kiaralinda realized they’d eventually need a bigger venue. “When you have 170 people in your gazebo and in your front yard listening to music, it’s kind of time to move it somewhere else,” she says.

Now, after five years of planning, raising funds and construction, their new venue, the Safety Harbor Art & Music Center (SHAM), has opened in the city’s downtown, at 706 Second St. N. The artistic hub for northern Pinellas County opened its doors over Thanksgiving weekend with a three-day celebration, SHAMsgiving. They followed this up with a 12 Days of Christmas holiday event. 

“It’s pretty much a dream come true,” Kiaralinda says. The new venue is a larger-scale version of their home. “There’s art everywhere.”

SHAMc, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, became a possibility for the couple when they won a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh Grant in 2011. Since the initial Pepsi grant, the project has been funded by a mix of donations, fundraisers and grants from the city. The plan was to create a center dedicated to all facets of the arts -- visual arts, music, literature, performing arts -- which is exactly what the venue is, Kiaralinda says. “We’re filling the calendar faster than we ever imagined we would, ever since we opened the doors,” she adds. 

Laura Kepner, founder of the Safety Harbor Writers & Poets, which now hosts its monthly open mics at SHAMc, says the local arts scene wouldn’t be what it is without Kiaralinda and Ramquist. 

“They support me with the open mic,” she says. “The really cool thing about [them] is if you want to do something with your art, whatever your art is, they’re probably going to cheer you on and say, how can we work together?”

The SHAM project transformed the Rigsby House, “a woodsy building” on the property when they purchased it, Kiaralinda says. “The old house was saved and resurrected. We did what we could to keep that alive.”

The original home is now called the ARTery, a space for workshops and to showcase local artwork. They also built a new two-story building called the ODDitorium, where the larger performances and events will take place.

Now, the folks behind SHAMc are planning their annual Safety Harbor SongFest, which is set for April 1 at Waterfront Park. The two-day music festival, which will feature artists including Magic Giant, Rising Appalachia, Charlie Mars and Joe Craven this year, will serve as a fundraiser for the new arts center.

Kiaralinda says SHAMc has a deep volunteer base of about 300 or so. “It’s been a really, really good ride, and we’ve had a lot of support,” she says, despite delays in funding and construction.

Though she and Ramquist have long been a staple of the Safety Harbor arts scene, she’s amazed by the response she’s received since SHAMc opened. “It’s crazy how many people walk through here and want to do things,” she says.

Seminole Heights bike shop reopens in new location on North Florida Avenue

Velo Champ Cycle Sport, which enjoyed six profitable years at 6112 N. Central Ave. in Tampa, has moved into a new location on busy North Florida Avenue in Seminole Heights.

Jordan Miller, who owns the business with his mom and dad, Doug and Sue Miller, says he was looking for more space and the chance to further enhance the concept of a specialty bike shop. 

“We do a lot of things other bike shops don’t do, like custom wheel building,” says Jordan at the new location, 4415 N. Florida Ave. “We use a more consultive approach with customers when it comes to customizing a bike or building a bike from scratch.”
 
Though Velo Champ is open for business, the family is still in the midst of interior renovations, with Jordan handling much of the labor and Doug, an architect, helping with design. The bike service area is complete, but Jordan, 34, is still working on the other half of the 2,700-square-foot shop where bicycles for sale will be displayed.
 
Doug collaborated with his son on designing customized light fixtures which still lay on the floor waiting to be mounted. Doug, a disabled Air Force veteran, says the family wants the modern work and sales space to advance the business’ ultimate goal of being a “destination” cycling center.

“When someone leaves here, they can say, ‘This is my bike and it’s special’,” Doug says.
 
The brick building, which the family is leasing, dates back to the late 1930s or early 1940s and is an example of an architectural style called federal modern, Doug says.
 
“There are some interesting details on the front that are masked by paint,” Doug says. “We’re going to fix it at some point to bring back some of the original details.”

Jordan Miller, who worked in motion pictures and imaging before opening a bicycle business, says he always thought Seminole Heights needed a shop like his. The residents who frequent the neighborhood’s hip restaurants, coffee shops and craft breweries share similar concerns with devotees to the culture of cycling. 

They both care about the environment and tend to support improvements in mass transit, along with walkable, bike-able streets.

“We share similar interests and a passion for the neighborhood,” Jordan says. “I definitely see there is an environmental concern here and a transportation concern that seems more prevalent with bicyclists.”
 
As part of that cultural crossover and support, Jordan says he intends to soon restart the Pub Bike Ride that was a monthly event and started at his bike shop on Central Avenue. The event regularly drew more than 100 cyclists.

“It’s a great way to show what the neighborhood is about,” he says.

How you can vote for best local architectural design in AIA Tampa Bay competition

Are you into local architecture? 

Maybe you really like the craftsman style of the Gulf Gate Library, the unique canopies of the Tampa Riverwalk or the futuristic aspects of the USF Health Pharmacy.
 
Whatever your architectural preferences, AIA Tampa Bay is inviting you to be the judge of its annual Design Awards competition. Through Nov. 2, you can vote for the 2016 People's Choice winner.
 
"This year, we have 51 outstanding projects vying for the honor of being recognized by the community," says Phil Trezza, president of AIA Tampa Bay. "This competition during Tampa Bay Design Week is important to our community because it gives a voice to the people who live, work and play in the buildings our members have designed."
 
AIA Tampa Bay is the regional chapter of AIA or the American Institute of Architects, the professional association for architects and those in the architecture field. The organization has been holding a People’s Choice Design Award program consistently since 2012. Last year's winner was Rashid Medical Complex by Gresham, Smith & Partners, which received more than 170 votes.
 
This year's entries have been submitted by local architecture firms, design-build teams, architectural interns and students. Voters can see a gallery of the projects online and vote for their favorite.
 
"When voting, people should consider more than building aesthetics," says Dawn Mages, Executive Director of AIA Tampa Bay, "they should consider how the building functions for its users and if it is sustainable."
 
The winner of the People's Choice Award will be recognized during Tampa Bay Design Week at the Celebrate Design awards reception on Nov. 3 at The Italian Club, 1731 E. Seventh Ave. in Ybor City. The event is open to the public and tickets are $55 for AIA members and $75 for non-members.
 
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit AIA Tampa Bay online or call 813-229-3411.
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